Doha | Swiatek seizes her 3rd Qatar Open title with straight sets win over Rybakina

Iga Swiatek landed her 3rd Qatar TotalEnergies Open title in a row, and couldn’t quite believe she had achieved yet another amazing milestone in her extraordinarily successful career. Cradling the golden falcon, she said: “You don’t even know how hard it was not to think about it. I came here and I was just pretty stressed because of that because I felt the expectations.”

I just had to, kind of, accept that I'm going to make some mistakes, more than usual because, for sure, it was hard for us to, sometimes, put it in when the ball went crazy. It was the same last year, but this year was a little bit different because it was only today when it got so windy during my match. So I had to adjust quickly. Iga Świątek

“But I wanted to just do everything step by step as I always do and again it worked,” she added. “So thank you to my team also for keeping me on the ground and focusing on the right stuff, because achieving that is great. I’m really happy and really proud of myself.”   

The World No 1 had to fight long and hard to overcome a gritty challenge from Elena Rybakina, but she came through 7-6(8) 6-2 after 2 hours and 19 minutes in Saturday’s Doha final.

The 22-year-old Pole, already a 4-times Grand Slam champion, won her 12th consecutive match in Doha, and became the first player to capture a singles title at a hard court event in 3 successive years since Serena Williams triumphed in Miami from 2013-15.

Rybakina, the World No 4 from Kazakhstan, came into the final holding a 3-1 edge in their head-to-head record, and was on an 8-match winning streak since her early exit at the Australian Open.

The No 3 seed raced out to a 4-1 lead with a double break, and looked in imperious form as Swiatek struggled to find her range and looked distinctly out of sorts in the blustery evening.

Rybakina. though, suddenly had to stop in the middle of the next game for a medical time-out after she whacked her shin with her racket at the end of her service motion, and drew blood.

The brief stoppage allowed Swiatek to consult with her team court-side, as the Kazakh’s momentum stalled.

“I was just making too many mistakes and I was, kind of, panicking at the beginning, not knowing what I should change,” Swiatek told Sky Sports Tennis. “But the coach really had a nice idea and I just, kind of, trusted him, and stuck to his idea and his words.

“I wasn’t really thinking much, myself, because it was hard for me to analyse perfectly. So I just trusted him and it worked.”

On resumption, the Pole regrouped, now beginning to assert her aggression after having been forced to defend off her back foot in the first 5 games, and the top seed reeled off 4 games in a row to edge ahead 5-4 before Rybakina stamped a hold to love.

It looked as if the 24-year-old Moscow-born Kazakh would snatch the set when she won a lengthy 11th game to go 6-5 up with her own service game to come.

Serving for the set, though, Rybakina could not close out, as Swiatek produced some outstanding overheads before tossing up a lob to extend the final break point, racing up to a mid-court ball and cracking a forehand to score her 3rd break and send the set into a tiebreak, in which heavy hitting by both led to an 8-8 deadlock.

Three set points for Swiatek and 1 for Rybakina went begging, but a rally backhand winner by the Pole gave the top seed her 4th at 9-8, and when the Kazakh attacked off a low approach, she did not do enough with the volley, and the World No 1 shovelled her backhand pass down the line, ending a wild opening set that saw her come back from 1-4 down and save a set point to boot.

The 90-minute opener was Swiatek’s 22nd consecutive set won in Doha, and spanned longer than many of her matches over the past 2 years. Both women left the court for a well-deserved pause.

World No 4 Elena Rybakina raced out to a double-break lead but drew blood with her racket and lost momentum against Iga Swiatek in the Doha final

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Swiatek had to save 2 break points in her first service game of the second set, but, after getting out of that jam, she eased her way into the lead.

The increasingly gusty winds in Doha were always more likely to trouble the taller and less agile Rybakina, who seem to tire in the second set, and both factors played a part as Swiatek ground out a break for a 2-1 lead, before following it up with another for 5-2 when the level of quality dropped off.

“I just had to, kind of, accept that I’m going to make some mistakes, more than usual because, for sure, it was hard for us to, sometimes, put it in when the ball went crazy,” Swiatek said. “It was the same last year, but this year was a little bit different because it was only today when it got so windy during my match. So I had to adjust quickly.”

Leaping to snap off a high backhand volley winner to end the match on her second championship point, Swiatek finished with 6 more winners and 4 fewer unforced errors than Rybakina, and converted 5 of her 10 break points.

“It was really long, I wasn’t expecting that. It was really tough,” Swiatek after secure her first WTA 1000 title of the year. “Congrats to Elena for a great tournament and to her team.

“We have already played so many tough matches that I think it’s going to be great if we continue, have fun, and give a nice experience to the fans.”

In claiming her 18th title, Swiatek landed her first of the 2024 season and improved her head-to-head record over Rybakina to 2-3, having lost on all 3 occasions last year.

Her only defeat in the last 23 matches was to Czech teen Linda Noskova in the 3rd-round of the Australian Open.

Swiatek, who received a walkover on Friday when Karolina Pliskova withdrew with a lower back injury, entered the final having won her last 21 sets at the tournament. Now it is 23.

“I’m happy that I kept working, and just didn’t really think about too many stuff during this week and just focused on the right things, because I think it was the key,” Swiatek said, after hoisting the golden falcon trophy for a 3rd time. “Coming here, and being kind of the double-defending champion wasn’t easy, so I’m happy that I have this experience already, and hopefully I’m going to use it.”

Iga Swiatek's aggression and speed ultimately prevailed over Elena Rybakina in the Doha final

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Although Rybakina fell short in her bid for a 3rd title of the year, having won the Abu Dhabi Open title last Sunday, and adding it to her Brisbane trophy at the start of January, she took many positives from her 2nd final in as many weeks.

“I fought till the end,” Rybakina said. “Congratulations to Iga for a great week. It’s been a great last two weeks… I didn’t expect to see so much support. It really helps, especially when it’s such tough matches.”

Rybakina leaves Doha as the season leader in match-wins, with 15 so far, surpassing Jelena Ostapenko, who has won 14 matches in 2024, and they are the only players to have won multiple singles titles so far this year, with 2 apiece.

Demi Schuurs (R) & Luisa Stefani won the doubles title after their straight sets victory over Desirae Krawczyk & Carloline Dolehide in the final match on Saturday afternoon

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Earlier on Saturday, No 5 seeds Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands & Luisa Stefani of Brazil claimed the Qatar TotalEnergies Open doubles title with a 6-4 6-2 victory over unseeded Americans Caroline Dolehide & Desirae Krawczyk.

In only their second event as a partnership, Schuurs & Stefani captured the WTA 1000 title in a 77-minute final, and improved their team record to 8-1 this year.

Earlier in the week, Schuurs & Stefani upset No 1 seeds and reigning Australian Open champions Hsieh Su-wei & Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, avenging their sole team loss of the season, which came in the Last 8 at this year’s first Grand Slam.

This is Schuurs’ 18th career WTA doubles title, and her 5th WTA 1000 crown, while Stefani is up to 9 WTA doubles titles in her career, with 3 of those coming at WTA 1000 events.

Three-time Doha champion Iga Swiatek (L) of Poland holds her trophy with Elena Rybakina alongside at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on Saturday night

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images



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